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Posts Tagged ‘Torah’

Harrison Cohen – Festival of Chanukah

Posted by peacedevelopmentnetwork on November 18, 2009


Harrison Cohen – Festival of Chanukah

Speech at House of Lords

November 18th 2009

Your Lordships, esteemed colleagues and friends: Let me start by saying it is truly a great honour and a privilege to have been given the chance to speak before you this evening. Before I start I am actually reminded of something that Lord Parekh mentioned earlier, and that of a concept in Jewish teachings that learning in honour of someone departed, it is as if they themselves have committed a good deed. So I’m honoured to be honouring the memory of Dr Singhvi with this presentation tonight.

Next month, Jews all over the world will be celebrating the festival of Chanukah. I hope now over the next few minutes to provide you with an insight into the meaning of Chanukah, both for myself as a Jew, as well as its particular relevance to all of us as members of different faiths living in Britain today. As we look at the world around us it’s hard not to notice the pain and the suffering brought on by poverty, disease, extremism, war and terror. We are only now beginning to emerge from the greatest economic crisis of our time and a swine flu epidemic, two global threats that if anything demonstrate the interconnectivity and interconnectedness of all of mankind. As we look around Britain today on the one hand it is easy to see a society fractured by baseless hatreds, prejudices and intolerance. Yet, as I look around this room tonight I’m pleased to say that I know these challenges can be faced and G-d-willing overcome – knowing that when a small group of men and women, and religious leaders come together in a display of unity, that we are no longer divided by difference, but we are united by our faith.

I have chosen to speak about the Jewish festival of Chanukah because it is one that ultimately teaches us the importance of religious freedom and human dignity. Chanukah demonstrates the importance and indeed necessity that even just a few good people can triumph over a tyranny of evil. On each of Chanukah’s eight nights we light candles that in many ways represent the triumph of good over evil, of light over darkness. It is also notable to say that the act of lighting the Menorah during the winter period is significant in that we light an extra candle as we approach the Winter Solstice. If we look to history we see so many occurrences within which just a few good men managed to triumph over evil, I am reminded by some inspirational words said by the American president John F. Kennedy, who said:

“We are not here to curse the darkness; but we are here to light a candle.”

We may not be able to make right all the wrongful ills in the world today, but at least we can try to change one person in the same way as [Iman Dr] Mahmadou [Boucoum] said, for each person is a world unto themselves. By lighting a candle we can at least bring a tiny spark of illumination to a world beset by darkness and confusion. Today, our world may be filled with compulsions to violence, intolerance and hatred, but it is also countered with the unending struggle in the fruition of goodness. The Jewish people know all too well the consequences of such evil compulsions, the challenges brought on by darkness and suffering: For throughout our history we have fought for survival time and time again, we have fought for the right to practice, to pray and to worship: To live our lives as the Torah commands us to. Throughout history when faced with inquisition and pogrom the Jews fought back with an unrelenting spiritual faithfulness. Throughout our exile and wanderings in the wilderness of the Diaspora we cling to the belief of the arrival of Messianic Era and the return to the Promised Land.

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